OK, so I’m a mix-breed. Nah, nah, don’t think wrong. I’ll explain. I’m the offspring of a inter-religion, inter-caste, inter-belief marriage. My father is a Kshatriya Maratha and my mother is a Khatri Punjabi (no, it’s not the same as Sikh). It’s a love marriage- not rare but infrequent. And I am the result 😀
Yeah I know, mix-breed has a negative connotation but hey, cross-breed is even worse! And I don’t mind, really. Actually, I LOVE it! Being a mix-breed, I mean. It’s an amazing mixture of two cultures and I try to imbibe the best of the two cultures.
Anyway, everyone knows India has like a billion languages. I know quite a few myself. I speak English, a bit of French, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, a bit of Gujarati and understand Marwadi, Sindhi and languages like those. And a few phrases from Tamil. And thanks to being a mix-breed, I’m not really particular with a ‘mother language’. I don’t even know my mother tongue. For me, mother tongue is that which my mother speaks and father tongue which my father speaks. And I don’t know what exactly a mother tongue is for me. Coz for other pure-breed children it’s the language both their parents speak. Like I say- Punjabi is my ‘mother’ tongue, Marathi is my ‘father’ tongue, Hindi is my ‘nation’ tongue and English is my ‘education’ tongue. It’s weird really, because I don’t completely take possession of any language. It is said that people think and pray in their mother tongue. I think and pray in a mash-up of English, Hindi, Marathi and a few terms of Punjabi in there somewhere.
I had gone to a temple with my family once and we were all praying to the deity, Lord Krishna in fact. Papa murmured in Marathi, I knew Mama was probably praying in Hindi and my sister spoke in broken English and Hindi. And I had the above mentioned mash-up. Somehow as we came out, the conversation turned to the language we prayed in. Papa expected Marathi, and mama Hindi. I explained them about the mash-up, and I think I disappointed them both. Not my fault, though I ended up feeling guilty. There is also an Akbar-Birbal story that implies that a person who wakes up from his sleep will speak his first words in his mother tongue. It happened to me, but I still don’t know if it shows my mother tongue.
I shifted to a boarding school for two years in South India. People either spoke Tamil, English or Hindi. So that’s what I spoke. Just one guy friend who spoke Punjabi and one girl friend who knew Marathi. Tell you the truth, I never spoke much Punjabi though I understood much of it. So I didn’t bother practicing. But I spoke Marathi with the girl friend whenever we were around. It was like reflex. I knew we were both missing Maharashtra and Marathi. So it was like an unspoken pact, speaking Marathi to each other. Once early in the morning my sleep broke and still groggy, I saw this girl friend in my dorm room. I don’t know how I recognized her in the dark, but I did. And the first words that burst out of me were, ‘Shruti, kai karteys ithe? Kahi havai ka?’ That’s Marathi for ‘Shruti, what are you doing here? Do you need something?’ I went back to sleep after she went but when I truly woke up and recounted this experience, I was shocked. I can’t remember one incidence when this has ever happened! I know I’ve spoken in Hindi and English. But never Marathi! I called my father later in the evening and told him about this. His only response was that I must have been missing Maharashtra, and Marathi, and my home. I guess that could be a valid reason.
So, yeah. I still don’t know my mother tongue, but love my personal mix-breed mash-up.
Love being Mix-breed!